08.01.18

Appropriations Vice Chairman Leahy Statement On Senate Passage Of The Interior, THUD, FSGG & Agriculture “Minibus” Appropriations Bill

Today, we are voting on final passage of the second “minibus” package of appropriations bills, and I urge an “aye” vote.   This bill contains the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies bill, the Financial Services and General Government and Related Agencies bill, the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill, and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies bill.  Each of these were reported by the Appropriations Committee unanimously, and each touches the lives of countless Americans in every state.

The Agriculture bill continues strong support for our country’s farmers.  It abandons the Trump budget’s proposal to leave rural communities behind and instead invests in rural development and housing programs. 

The Financial Services bill supports regulatory agencies that the American people rely on to protect them from unfair, unsafe or fraudulent business practices.

The Interior bill rejects the anti-science know-nothing agenda proposed by the Trump administration by protecting the Environmental Protection Agency from the President’s proposed reckless and slashing cuts.  It preserves investments that ensure our children and grand-children will enjoy clean air and water.  And it supports our National Parks, which are treasures that must be protected for future generations.

Finally, thanks to the bipartisan budget agreement, the Transportation bill contains $10 billion in new funding compared to fiscal year 2017 to invest in our nation’s housing and infrastructure.  Every member in this body knows of the urgent need to address the crumbling infrastructure that plagues each of our states.  This is a good first step. 

We are here today, because Chairman Shelby and I, along with the subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members, worked hard to produce bipartisan bills with input from both Republicans and Democrats.  Over the past two weeks, the Senate voted on 11 amendments, and agreed to a manager’s package that contained 46 amendments important to our members. 

This is the way the Senate is supposed to work: regular order. 

Our bipartisan success is due to the Shelby, Leahy, McConnell, Schumer commitment to move through this process with bipartisan support, at spending levels agreed to in the bipartisan budget deal, and reject poison pill riders and controversial authorizing language.

The House, unfortunately, is pursuing a different path.  They are taking up partisan bills filled with poison pills riders that cannot and will not pass the Senate. If our progress is to continue, the bills that come out of conference must be bills that can pass the Senate, which means they must be free of poison pills. 

I am disappointed my election security grant amendment was rejected by the Senate.  The integrity of our elections, which are the foundation of our democracy, should not be a partisan issue.  It is unfortunate that the Senate voted down funding our states need to help upgrade their election infrastructure and secure our elections from interference by Russia and other foreign adversaries ahead of the 2018 midterms.  We need to heed the warnings of our intelligence agencies.  Of the lights blinking red.  Of the appeals from the attorneys general, the secretaries of state, and the state and local election officials who are sounding the alarm.  This duty has fallen to us, and we must not later be found to have been asleep at the switch, with so much at stake.

But this minibus is the result of hard work and compromise on the part of the Chair and Ranking Member of each Subcommittee.  And while it is not perfect, it will touch the lives of the American people in every state from improving roads to protecting our forests, and I urge that Senators vote “aye” on final passage.   

If the Senate approves the package before it today, we will have passed seven appropriations bills out of the Senate, with a firm commitment to take up two more in the coming weeks.  This progress would not have been possible without the dedication of my good friend, Chairman Shelby, and the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Subcommittees: Senators Hoeven, Merkley, Murkowski, Udall, Collins, Reed, Lankford and Coons. 

I also want to thank the Majority staff Shannon Hines, David Adkins, and Jonathan Graffeo, as well as their subcommittee staff, for their hard work and cooperation on this bill.

I want to thank my staff for their long hours over the last few weeks, Charles Kieffer, Chanda Betourney, Jessica Berry, Rachael Taylor, Dianne Nellor, Dabney Hegg, and Ellen Murray, and all of the subcommittee staff. 

And finally, I want to take a moment to also recognize and thank Jessica Schulken.  Later this month, Jessica will be leaving the Appropriations Committee in August after nearly 18 years with the Agriculture Subcommittee. 

Through her expertise and hard work she has advanced our nation’s agricultural policy, been a strong advocate for rural communities, and helped keep USDA and the FDA answerable to Congress.   

Jessica has been a pleasure to work with, and I wish her the best as she begins a new chapter in her career. 

I have a complete list of staff I want to thank and I ask unanimous consent that it be submitted for the Record. 

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